Pop Culture
Dec 27, 2021, 06:28AM

Things Looming Over You

A 2002 Archives of American Act interview with the late artist Anne Truitt vs. a 1980 Bennington Review interview with the late poet John Ashbery.

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Anne Truitt: On the eastern shore of Maryland, the sky seems to be uniform, more or less. It’s not a place of clouds. It’s a place where the molecular—the osmotic—everything, all the color is held up in osmosis in the moisture, but it’s not cloudy.

John Ashbery: Although you cannot follow the patterns of these clashes, what is precisely interesting in the music is the way in which the voices bounce off each other and illuminate each other momentarily. 

Truitt: Plus the ground-gripper shoes, the orange juice, the brown bread.

Ashbery: Sudden shifts and inversions. It seems like a vice, like a craving for junk food.

Truitt: Things looming over you. Fat, bulky, filled, powerful, shouldering shapes.


Ashbery: What I want to do is illuminate the ways in which we are private individuals who are, perhaps, capable of breaking through that.

Truitt: You cut the figure and set it free inside the block of clay.

Ashbery: It depends on the individual. Why put forth a useless effort?

Truitt:  It doesn’t cost you anything, does it?

Ashbery: I discovered later on that wasn't true.


Truitt: In other words, if it went in, I thought of it as going out on the other side; and then if it went this way, toward me—convexly—then I thought there must be something concave, possibly, on the other side, or the convex energy would flow into a concavity someplace.

Ashbery: The moment of the shutter clicking is invented also. My reaction is always that I have suffered too, like everybody else, so why don't we forget about it and get down to business?

Truitt: I’ve described it in my book, so I won’t dwell on it. But the idea was to save money for the Navy and also save the student, because…

Ashbery: But there’s a limit to how much one can do. 

Truitt: My mother used to read to us every night on that little sofa you’re sitting on.


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